Blog Post

5 Research-Based Best Practices For Impactful Learning Videos

Shannon Howard
September 26, 2023
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As you look to scale your education programs, it’s highly likely you’ll end up using video. 

But not all video is created equal. 

In this blog, you’ll learn about the different types of videos used in customer education, as well as research-based best practices for creating educational content. These tips come from Tamara Jones, Product Manager at Intellum, and  Dr. Katie Erhardt, former Research Analyst at Intellum (shared in a previous episode of our Underscore webinar series). 

3 Types of Video Used in Customer Education Programs

Videos make up a key component of education initiatives. There are three main types of videos we think about when it comes to video for customer education.

1. Live Events

These are what typically come to mind when we talk about video-based live events: webinars, streamed conference sessions, or live streams through platforms like LinkedIn, YouTube, or Facebook.

(Wondering why you’d host live events in a learning platform instead of a virtual events platform? Because the video touches other content. By bringing the learner into the learning environment, they’re exposed to other opportunities to continue learning.)

2. On-Demand Video

On-demand videos can take different formats, including the recorded versions of webinars and live sessions, or short and long-form video content that’s created to be on-demand.

3. Structured Sessions

Structured sessions leverage curriculum-based content. You might use these when there’s a big end goal or as part of a larger learning initiative, such as an onboarding cohort.

5 Research-Based Best Practices For Impactful Learning Videos

Not all videos are created equal. The research shows that standard sessions (such as in-person or virtual instructor-led training) are more effective for learning than on-demand or recorded video. However, when approached the right way (using research-based best practices), video can be just as effective as real-time learning. 

Here are five research-based best practices you can use to create impactful learning videos:

1. Leverage Narrative

How you structure your video matters. There are a couple different components to this:

The Triple Tell ‘Em

You’ve probably heard it before: “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them.” It’s almost a joke at this point, but it gets repeated for good reason: It helps with learner retention! Provide a quick intro to the topic, dive into your content, then provide a quick recap at the end. (Swarts, 2012)


If you’ve heard of Richard Mayer or blocked practice, you’re likely familiar with this concept. The idea is to break up information into progressively presented parts. Research shows that learners learn better when consistently presented with information in small chunks. What this might look like in practice is creating four, shorter five-minute videos in lieu of one, longer 20-minute video. (Mayer & Clark, 2016)

Knowledge Checks & Reflections

Putting questions throughout a video can help with memory and self-assessment (Bramer, 2017). These give the learner an opportunity to engage with what they just learned about. Consider the following example:

Reflections are more in-depth than a knowledge check. They invite the learner to think more deeply about the content through questions like, “What brought you to this conclusion?” These reflections are most useful in a live session, but can be useful in on-demand video or pre-recorded sessions, encouraging the learner to think, reflect, and engage with the topic (Liu et al., 2021). 

The one caveat to knowledge checks and reflections is live streaming. Having questions pop up during a live stream can be more distracting than helpful (Pi et al., 2020).

2. Give the Viewer Control

Give the learner the remote—allowing them to adjust the video based on how difficult it is for them. This lets them learn at their own pace (Schwan & Riempp, 2004).

A great way you can do this is by leveraging an interactive table of contents. This allows the learner to skip ahead to portions that may be more useful or relevant to them (or to skip past content they’re already familiar with). (Cojean & Jamet, 2021)

While we should include subtitles and captions for accessibility, having them on can make it more difficult to process the information. You might opt to have them turned off by default, or remind learners to turn them off to reduce the cognitive load (Mayer, 2021).

3. Consider the Use of Multimedia

When it comes to using multimedia in video presentations, more is not always better. We want to be thoughtful and intentional about what we use and why.

Visual cues are helpful for highlighting information. Using arrows or circles and highlighting text can call attention to what’s most important to the viewer. (Bramer, 2017; Mayer, 2021).

You also want to consider spatial contiguity, that is, how close words and pictures are to each other. Students learn better when the words that correspond with images are closer together, like the top part of the example below. This also supports accessibility in your videos (Mayer, 2021; Mutlu-Bayraktar et al., 2022).


A final note on backgrounds is to limit your use of special backgrounds or music. While this seems like a fun addition, it can actually distract the learner (Bramer, 2017).

4. Be Intentional With Instructors

Who presents your video and how they present can make a huge difference in learner engagement.

The research shows that using a diverse cast of instructors boosts learner engagement and self-efficacy—in addition to being representative and inclusive (Rosenberg-Kima et al., 2013).

We’re socially motivated as people, so ideally, you’d use a live person in your training videos (Mayer, 2021; Wang et al., 2020). This improves learning transfer and satisfaction with the course. Instructors should stick to a conversational tone—not a droning or condescending tone (Bramer, 2017; Mayer, 2021). The research also shows that an instructor in a positive mood boosts learner motivation, enthusiasm, and engagement. 

5. Include Interactions

Finally, consider interactions as part of your live or on-demand videos. Social learning can be incredibly powerful—even if it’s done asynchronously.

For live streamed videos, this might look like encouraging learners to use emojis to respond to the content or type in the chat their thoughts and experiences. 

For both on-demand and live videos, you might include structured discussions that build off the content. Research has found that having structured discussions leads to improvement in learning. This could look like encouraging the learner to go to your learning management system (LMS) after watching and using a prompt to guide the conversation. (Okana et al., 2018; Pi et al., 2020)

We hope these tips help you to create videos that move the needle for your learning programs. 

Continue Learning

Want to keep learning about creating educational videos? Check out the following resources:

About the Author

Shannon Howard Speaker Headshot
Shannon Howard
Director of Content & Customer Marketing
Shannon Howard is an experienced Customer Marketer who’s had the unique experience of building an LMS, implementing and managing learning management platforms, creating curriculum and education strategy, and marketing customer education. She loves to share Customer Education best practices from this blended perspective.